I welcome the National Security Bill, which builds on the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Law Commission and delivers long-overdue updates to our current legislation. As threats and technologies have evolved and been exposed, so too have the gaps in the legislative defences necessary to keep our country safe from hostile state threats.
I share concerns about Clause 27 of the Bill, which would give intelligence and security services an exemption from provisions in the Serious Crime Act 2007. I remain unconvinced of the need for this measure, as there is already a reasonableness defence under section 50 of the Serious Crime Act. I appreciate there are concerns about the British intelligence services’ actions in regard to Jagtar Singh Johal, and I have indeed raised these issues in Parliament (see here).I also believe this Bill risks diminishing the role of Ministers and the Independent Reviewer in decision-making and accountability structures.
I therefore voted for an amendment to remove Clause 27 from the Bill during its Report Stage in the House of Commons on 16 November. Unfortunately, the Conservative Government opposed the amendment and defeated it on division by 283 votes to 212.
Ahead of Report Stage, I also shared concerns about Clauses 79-83 of the Bill, which would introduce a duty on courts to consider reducing in part, or to nil, any damages won from the Government if there is a real risk that these would be used for terrorism. I am pleased that the Government amended the Bill on 16 November to tighten the definition of those in scope of this measure to those involved in “terrorist wrongdoing”.
The Bill will now be considered in the House of Lords, where I hope these issues can be explored further and resolved.
I pay tribute to those who work in our intelligence and security services, whose work is so often unseen. They work hard to defend our liberty and democracy from threats from all sides and do so much to keep us safe.